There are a couple of ways to do this, in the shell or butterfly style. I will describe the butterfly style, since it's more involved.

Ingredients

  1. Anywhere from one to 5 pounds of shrimp
  2. one Lemon
  3. One packet of spices. You can get these at a seafood store. If you can't find one, then substitute the following:
    1. 2 Tablespoons paprika
    2. 1 Tablespoon thyme
    3. 1 Tablespoon oregano
    4. 1/2 Tablespoon salt

Equipment

  1. A big pot with a lid
  2. range
  3. colander
  4. Small, sharp knife and cutting board

Preparation

Some say you can quickly peel and clean shrimp in one step using some sort of special tool, but I have never found the results as satisfactory as I have using a knife and my own hands.

Peeling the shrimp

If you are right handed
  1. Pick up the shrimp by the tail in your left hand, so that its legs are facing down.
  2. Curl your right hand over the top of the shrimp, so that your nails are poking into its underside.
  3. Dig your nails into the shrimp's underside, then peel the whole shell off the shrimp in one motion. You may be left with a pair or two of legs close to the tail, that can be removed manually.
  4. If your hands start to sting from doing this too much, it is because shrimp are naturally high in iodine.

Cleaning the shrimp

  1. Hold the shrimp in your left hand, so that the belly is facing down and the tail is towards you.
  2. Gently pass the knife down the length of the body, cutting maybe a quarter inch into the flesh of the shrimp. Use the whole knife to do this, since if you just try to draw the tip down, you won't have much control.
  3. Spread open the shrimp's body with your fingers. You should see a tube, usually a dark one, running the length of the shrimp. This is the shrimp's digestive tract, and if it is dark, it is filled with shrimp shit. Pull it out and dispose of it with the shells.
  4. Drop the shrimp into the growing pile in the colander.
Once you have peeled and cleaned all your shrimp, rinse them out in the colander. Fill the pot with water and bring it to a raging boil. Drop the spices in. Also, halve your lemon and drop the two halves in as well. Once the water returns to a boil, dump your shrimp in. Boil for 10 minutes, when the shrimp become firm and completely opaque. Dump the mixture into your colander (you should wash it while the shrimp are cooking) and quickly hose off the shrimp with cool water.

I like eating them straight out of the strainer like this, but others like to throw the batch into a refrigerator and serve them chilled with cocktail sauce.

You can also skip the tedious peeling and cleaning steps and just cook the shrimp in the shell. Make sure you give them an extra minute or two, and try not to think about how you are eating veins of excrement in your shrimp as you do.

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